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STEM Saved Damar Hamlin, NFL Should Support STEM Education

NEW ORLEANS – “It was a stunning scene. A week ago, Damar Hamlin lay motionless on the football field. His Buffalo Bills teammates and players from the rival Cincinnati Bengals, some of the most powerful and conditioned athletes in the world, kneeled, helpless to assist their fallen brother.

“They waited for STEM to save him.

“Yes, it was those with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills and talents that came to the rescue. The physically impressive athletes were bystanders. It was the trainers and physicians who saved Hamlin on the field, now at the hospital it is the heart specialists, nurses and physician assistants who remarkably have him on a recovery course. He even Facetimed with his teammates.

“Millions of people watched Hamlin, the Bills and the Bengals play football on television. Another 65,515 people each paid hundreds of dollars to be at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, watching the game live. YouTube just paid $2 billion for the right to broadcast NFL out of market games, while the league collects billions more from the major TV networks and product sponsors.

“The point is that the NFL generates billions in revenue, but do the league office and owners appreciate the role that STEM not only played in saving Hamlin’s life, but in treating, preparing and protecting players on every team so they can suit up each week and entertain millions?

“Perhaps it’s time that the NFL paid more attention to STEM. Right now, STEM has a problem. STEM professionals are overwhelmingly White and male. Studies demonstrate that educational and societal barriers contribute to the disproportionate number of Blacks, Hispanics and women studying STEM and working in STEM careers. The NFL can help overcome these obstacles, creating more pathways for women and students of color to have careers in STEM.

“Two weeks ago, an extraordinary event transpired inside the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. Just before kickoff of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, more than 2,000 parents and K-12 students attended our STEM NOLA STEM FEST, where parents and children learned about STEM, and participated in hands-on STEM activities. This was a landmark moment - STEM education connected directly with a popular college football bowl game. Just days before Christmas, parents and children left their homes to engage in STEM activities - operating robots, building operable automobiles and drones, observing the dissection of a sheep heart, riding a hovercraft, and much more.

“This was a huge, tradeshow-like environment that featured more than 60 stations where kids and parents engaged in STEM activities. STEM NOLA is an affiliate of STEM Global Action, which organizes STEM FESTS in communities around the country. Since October, we have hosted STEM FESTS in Alexandria, VA, Mobile, AL, Bridgeport, CT, and other locations. We introduce parents and children to the value of STEM, often bringing STEM activities into under-resourced communities. Valuable opportunities are created for children to have STEM role models. Children, parents, and communities deserve to have these opportunities so we can position girls and students of color in future STEM-based workplaces.

“Imagine the possibilities that can come from STEM FEST events at NFL games or during NFL team sponsored events in their cities? There is no better way to honor what STEM professionals did for Hamlin and his family. The NFL can join with others in the public, private and nonprofit sectors committing to advancing STEM education. STEM FEST events are a proven method of providing girls and children of color opportunities to learn more about STEM and place them in a pipeline to quality jobs in STEM careers.”


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